Onstage & Backstage: Jonathan Groff's Musical Theatre Fender-Bender and Nathan Lane Calls Me Out

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: Jonathan Groff's Musical Theatre Fender-Bender and Nathan Lane Calls Me Out
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Seth with his dad, Juli and James
Seth with his dad, Juli and James


I'm. Tired. My flight home from Buffalo landed at 7 AM. I didn't write that it took off at 7 AM. I wrote it landed at 7 AM. That means I had to be awake before then. How early? Well, the cab to the airport picked me up at 4:30 AM. That means I had to be awake before then. Let's skip that part and focus on the fun part; Buffalo was having its big theatre celebration called Curtain Up, and all the theatres had shows running that night. I was at 710 Main and afterwards, there were street bands and food, and it was so much fun. I mean, it looked like so much fun. I ran past it with my head down so I could immediately get to my hotel and sleep for a few meager hours 'til my 4:30 AM pickup. Speaking of early, a week before that early morning flight, I took the red eye home after my weekend in San Francisco.

Guess what's not fun? Taking the red eye home after a weekend in San Francisco. The weekend on the West Coast, however, was so great. James, Juli and I hung out with my dad, who flew up from Palm Desert. The last time I was in San Fran with my dad was when I was 15-years-old! He recalled fondly the time we took a flight around San Fran in a small sea plane (already terrifying) with a pilot who was obviously drunk. First of all, we weren't already in the plane when my dad realized he was drunk. My dad said he knew it as soon as he saw him. My questions are: 1. Why did my dad readily agree for us both to get into that flying near-deathmobile? Was my dad also drunk? And how is that possible since he doesn't drink? Manishevitz? Not likely because we were eating non-stop bread the whole trip, so it wasn't Passover. 2. Why is the story recalled with fondness and not told with a flashlight underneath his face and then used for a plot in one of the many "Final Destination" sequels?

Anyhoo, we also hung out with Jonathan Groff, who was in San Fran filming HBO's "Looking." Jonathan mentioned that he watched Elaine Stritch videos obsessively after she passed away, and we were discussing stories we had heard about whether or not she was difficult to work with. I definitely would have been nervous doing a show with Elaine in case she acted out on me, but Jonathan told us he totally doesn't mind cantankerous old women. He feels once someone reaches 70 years old, they can do whatever they want onstage. Finally, my mother has a willing scene partner.

Speaking of older ladies, we talked about Dorothy Loudon, who did the first reading of William Finn's A New Brain as the mom. I was the assistant music director (to Jason Robert Brown!), and she was fantastic in the part. Turns out, Jonathan was obsessed with that show in high school and said he had a car accident listening to the CD! It was the song "In The Middle of the Room," and it happened at the exact moment when the mom (played by Penny Fuller) sings about being hit being by a car! He was making a left turn and a car hit him. He demonstrated how it happened thus: "Here I stand, in the middle of the road.
And I'm waiting for a car.
To come along and hit me."

The timing was impeccable!

Seth, James, Jonathan Groff and Danny Glicker
Seth, James, Jonathan Groff and Danny Glicker
Andrea Martin
Andrea Martin

OK, fellow frequent fliers, where am I going next in my jet-set life? Well, I just went east to London, west to San Fran, then north to Buffalo, so naturally I'm now going south (west) to Texas! This Wednesday I'm flying down to San Antonio to see the regional premiere of Unbroken Circle, the play that James wrote! On opening night (Thursday), I'll be hosting a talk back, and you can get tix at WoodlawnTheatre.org. I just found this great video where Audra McDonald talks about how much she loved the show and literally says she "laughed her t**s off." Watch!

Speaking of t**s, Andrea Martin's wonderful new book is about to come out, and the first chapter is entitled "Perky T**s." Why? Because that's what Steve Martin told her the book should be called. She finally put the kibosh on that name, and instead the book is called "Andrea Martin's Lady Parts." Such a great name! It's all essays about her life; showbiz, motherhood, aging, dating, etc. Some hilarious, some moving, all fantastic. There are also a few mini-chapters which I love.

Here are some of her "Things I Think But Don't Say Out Loud."

I obsessively buy books and don't read them.
My headshots are airbrushed so much, even I think I've had work.
I can't wait to get my bathrobe on.
I've seen Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia three times and still don't know what the hell he's talking about.
Wait, why is King Lear upset? 'Cause he's old and can't trust his daughters?
I would like to have sex with every boy who works at the Genius Bar.
I love going to a really depressing foreign film at three o'clock in the afternoon. It feels good to cry with ten strangers over age 60.
Tina Fey mentioned me in her book, and it boosted my self-esteem. For a minute.

Speaking of Tina Fey, she came to my birthday party in February, and when James and I were hanging out with Andrea, she asked us if we'd ask Tina to give a quote for her book. Why couldn't Andrea ask her herself, you ask? Well, the "answer" is she was out of town and not at the party. You may then do a follow question and ask, even if Andrea was out of town, why couldn't she ask Tina using either
A. A phone.
B. Electronic mail. Basically, it was because Andrea was too scared Tina would say no. So, it's the night of my party and, turns out, I'm just as petrified as Andrea is! I wound up begging James to do the asking. Lo and behold, Tina says yes! Andrea sent her the book and Tina's quote, not surprisingly, is amazing: "I have loved Andrea Martin from afar for many years, but now, after reading this funny and heroically honest book, I would like to take things to the 'next level' and marry her." Brava! Andrea and I made a video about her book featuring a rap written by her and Lin-Manuel Miranda for Edith Prickley and a mini-scene from Young Frankenstein. Watch here! And order Andrea's book here!

Many years ago (seven-and-a-half to be exact), there was a reality show called "Grease: You're The One That I Want." It played on NBC every week, and the premise was the nationwide search for the next Danny and Sandy for the Broadway revival of Grease. Since I had done the '94 revival on Broadway, I was asked by Playbill.com to write a weekly recap of the show. It was my first time writing here! Throughout my columns, I'd insert bits and pieces of my personal life; mainly obsessing about the cereal I ate as I watched (Waffle Crisp) and my new boyfriend (James). After the winners were chosen (the excellent Max Crumm and Laura Osnes), Playbill.com asked me to stay on as a weekly columnist and write about whatever happened during the week... hopefully expanding beyond cereal and James. Which I did. A little.

Anyhoo, since then I've written a column every single week (!), and I just got a book deal to publish them! Yes! Volume One is 2007-2008, and as I re-read them, I added some sassy side comments, which will be peppered throughout the book, and I also found lots of fabulous photos from that time period, which included (but was not limited to): The Broadway strike, rehearsing and performing "We Need A Little Christmas" with Angela Lansbury (!), me having to wear a unitard on Broadway in The Ritz, putting together and performing Annie with Andrea McArdle playing Annie (!), forcing Kristin Chenoweth to take the PATH train because I was too cheap to pay for a car after she recorded "Broadway Nights" for Audible.com and hilarious interviews with tons of stars. One of my faves was Matthew Broderick whom I asked about onstage mishaps. It was during a 2007 Chatterbox, and he warned the audience that the story he was about to recount was gross and they should perhaps take out their hearing earpieces. I explained to him that you can only rent those at Broadway shows, and we were at Don't Tell Mama, which isn't a Broadway theatre. He replied, "Then why am I here?" Hi-lar. Speaking of Matthew, I emailed his It's Only A Play co-star, Nathan Lane, and asked if he'd consider giving me a quote. I asked because I know he reads my column. How do I know? Because I was re-reading the interview I did with him in 2008 and saw this:

At one point, I had my cell phone onstage to check the time, and I said, "Do you want to see a picture of my boyfriend James?" Well. He went on a five-minute tear about how every week I have to mention "my boyfriend James this" and "my boyfriend James that" and how I always pepper it with "his daughter Juli." Nathan made it clear that yes, he's got it: I have a boyfriend. Then he asked if James is the first boyfriend I've ever had. Hmph. I wanted to tell him that he was exaggerating and that no one else is bothered by it until I saw the entire audience nodding in unison. Well. I will simply say that sometimes James comes up as part of a story I'm telling, and I don't want new readers to look at it and say, "Who is this random James person that Seth is talking about?" Hence the moniker, "my boyfriend James." But, I know that when the public speaks (or in this case, yells at you), you must listen. So from now on I will simply write James' name without a precursor or simply list him as my BF.

Anyhoo, I wrote to Nathan, but I knew it was a long shot because he's in the middle of previews and was probably way too busy with his show. But he wrote me back right away and said yes. How nice is he? And, PS, he gave me the best quote ever! "If you don't happen to have a nice gay Jewish nephew who is a musical genius and hilariously funny with ties to musical comedy stars and an obsessive need to pick apart every single note of their careers, and who also comes home and tells you all about it while dishing them and ordering Chinese take-out not to mention counting calories all at the same time, then Seth Rudetsky is your man. Please buy this amaaaaahzing book so he'll stop e-mailing me."

How fantastic is that? Please don't let Nathan down. Pre-order the book here! And now, dear readers, I must leave you. It's time for me to hang out with James. My husband James!


(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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